Want to secure press coverage on your company this year? Here's what you need to know. Photo via All You Need Method

If you’re looking to build brand awareness, establish trust and credibility, and reach more customers in 2023, landing a press placement can be impactful for your small business. A traditional PR placement, also known as “earned media,” is one of the most valuable endorsements for a business, and you do have to earn it.

The good news is that in today’s digital landscape you don’t need a PR agency or consultant to land press coverage, you can pursue media coverage on your own. By prioritizing your brand foundation and telling your brand story through your owned channels (such as your website, newsletter and social media platforms), you can capture the attention of the media. Pair a strong brand and storytelling with the appropriate tactics for working with editors, and you will be set up for success.

Read our insider tips below to help you secure press coverage for your business this year.

1. Good PR starts with your brand

If you’ve ever wondered how to catch the attention of an editor, it starts with your brand — and by brand, we don’t just mean your branding (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) — although that is one component.

Good PR starts with a good story, one that is unique and differentiated. Editors are looking for more than just a product or service – they are looking for something special and new that their readers will benefit from.

Building your brand is about establishing the personality and story behind your business that goes beyond sales and promotions. Taking the time to build your brand is one of the best investments you can make as a small business owner. Not only will it help with your PR and marketing efforts, but it will also support your overall long-term success.

Building a brand foundation and learning how to tell your brand story includes your company positioning, your values, articulating what makes you different, crafting your founding story, refining your visual aesthetic and tone of voice, and much more.

Being able to communicate what makes you different, what you stand for, what you have to offer, and what you want to be known for – and developing a brand aesthetic that reflects your unique point of view – will allow you to stand out from the competition and capture the attention of the media.

2. Tell your own story

In our digital world brands are being discovered online. This means that your website and Instagram channel are often the first impression of your business to both consumers and editors. That said, it’s essential for your success that your digital presence communicates and reflects your brand foundation – the personality and substance behind your business. One question to consider is if your ideal customer or editor came to your website or Instagram for 30 seconds, would they walk away knowing the three most important things about your business and with a clear idea of what you stand for, what makes you different, and what you have to offer?

Your owned channels also provide an exciting opportunity to connect directly with your ideal customers, influencers, potential partners, as well as the media. By sharing your brand narrative consistently across your owned channels, you have the potential to build a meaningful relationship with your audience that can grow into loyal followers and customers.

The key is communicating consistently – you want your brand to be cohesive across all channels, so that everything from an Instagram post to your homepage reflects the unique brand positioning you’ve established. To achieve a consistent brand narrative, you want to make sure your messaging, photography, copywriting, graphics, and any other creative materials reflect the brand foundation you’ve built.

An invaluable practice at any stage of business is to conduct a brand audit in order to evaluate if your digital channels are communicating your brand foundation effectively. Read our three steps for conducting a brand audit here.

3. Draft and organize your materials

Drafting and organizing materials is one of the first tasks to tackle when preparing to reach out to the media. Editors are inundated with emails (thousands and thousands a day) and receiving easy-to-review dropbox links and files makes their job much easier. A lengthy email without a clear hook is a sure way to end up in someone’s Trash folder and left unread.

We cannot express enough how important photography is for securing press. Many publications rely on a brand’s photography. Without images it is oftentimes impossible for an editor to cover a brand. This goes for your personal brand too - if you’re an expert or offer a service, you will also need to provide a professional headshot or lifestyle image. Brands with consumer products will also need to show product photography.

There are a wide range of materials you may need based on your industry, but here are the essentials:

  • About page: a one-page document outlining the who, what, when, where, and why of your company
  • Bio: an overview of your background and why you started your company, with a few personal details
  • Line Sheet: images, pricing and key details for product collections
  • Product photography: Lay flats of your product on a white seamless background
  • Lifestyle photography: Images that bring your product or service to life by showing them in use
  • Headshot: Professional photo of the founder or expert styled in a way that is relevant to the brand. I.e. if you’re a chef or a nutritionist, take your headshot in a beautiful kitchen, if you’re an artist or interior designer take your headshot in your studio

4. Research, research, research

We often get asked how to know who to reach out to. Every publication is different, which is why research is very important. Taking the time to properly research will save you a lot of time in the long-run and allow you to pinpoint which outlets and contacts are the best fit for your business. As you research, be sure to organize contact information and notes into a media list so you can keep track of who to reach out to and any feedback you receive.

We have a free media list template that you can download here.

When researching, keep these four tips in mind:

  • Be targeted – Focus on publications whose audience matches your own and who feel like a fit with your brand aesthetic and values
  • Scope out the competition - Where have your competitors, or brands and experts you admire, been featured?
  • Read recent articles - Whether you pick up magazines or do a Google search, look and see who has been writing about brands or other experts in your industry lately. When you use Google Search, use the Tools option to narrow down your search to articles in the past 6 months or year.
  • Look at the masthead - A magazine’s masthead is a list of its editorial staff and can give you helpful insight into who covers which category. You can usually find a masthead online, or in the front pages of a print publication.

5. Think like an editor

Editors are looking for interesting stories, new items, and pieces that will pop on a page. They work off of editorial calendars, and many magazines have set themes for each month. You can Google a magazine’s editorial calendar to find out their upcoming themes and think about where there might be a fit for your product or service, or for you as the founder of your business.

To think like an editor, keep these three tips in mind:

  1. Utilize Editorial Calendars. Most reputable magazines, outline outlets, and even blogs, share an annual “editorial calendar” on their website. Editorial calendars outline the theme for each issue, the date the issue comes out, and the topics they are covering. While editorial calendars are technically created for advertisers, they are an invaluable free resource for PR planning if you know how to use them to your advantage.
  2. Learn Lead Times. Be sure to keep what PR professionals call “lead times'' in mind. There are two main categories most publications and media outlets fall into: long lead and short lead. Long lead publications are typically glossy print publications or special issues of a newspaper that work about working three to six months in advance. For example, if you want to pitch an item for a holiday gift guide in a December issue (which hits stands in November) you want to be ready to send that information to the publication in July. Short lead publications and/or outlets include daily newspapers, weekly magazines, online outlets, such as digital versions of magazines and blogs, and broadcast news. Their lead times can range from a month in advance, to a week or even less.
  3. Understand What is “Newsworthy” vs. Seasonal/Evergreen. Editors cover what is new and newsworthy, as well as seasonal and evergreen topics that are relevant to their readers. When thinking about what you have to pitch, such as a specific product, consider whether it is evergreen and can be covered at any time, or if it is a seasonal item. This will guide the timing and context of your pitch.

6. Build relationships

Building relationships is incredibly impactful when it comes to landing press placements. Reaching out in a personal way, gifting your product or service, and keeping in touch with editors and writers over time will increase your chances of being covered with the right fit arrives.

When reaching out to editors, what do you have to offer? News? Tips? A cool new product collection to check out? This is not a transactional relationship, think long term and how you can be a resource for this editor or publication beyond what you are pitching at this moment.

Personalization and authenticity are key. Your first email to an editor should not be a “pitch” or a press release, it should be an introduction of yourself and your business. Be sure to research each person in advance and follow them on social media so you can personalize each email – mention a recent article of theirs that you enjoyed reading, or a recent Instagram post on their feed that you found interesting.

If you are able to set up a call, Zoom, or in person meeting, that is ideal for relationship building. We also recommend offering to gift your product or service to contacts at outlets that are on the top of your dream press list. This goes a long way and will allow them to be able to speak about your product or service from firsthand experience.

Lastly, be sure to follow up. If you don’t hear back, there is a good chance they missed your first email. Wait a couple of weeks and send a nice follow up. Remember, this is a long game and it takes time.

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Kathryn Worsham Humphries and Carla M. Nikitaidis are the Co-Creators of All You Need Method, a PR and brand strategy consulting firm for small business owners, creative entrepreneurs, and digital creators who are looking to build a brand and raise brand awareness through PR, content marketing, and partnerships. They offer support through their online course, The Brand Starter Kit, 1:1 Strategy Sessions, and custom client projects.

Why use social media for business? These two PR experts make their case. Getty Images

Houston PR team shares how social media can affect your small business

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As a small business owner, I know firsthand how important it is to stay on top of the latest marketing trends. We no longer live in a world where traditional public relations alone will achieve your business objectives. With new and evolving digital platforms creating so many ways to communicate with your target audience, businesses must diversify their public relations and media strategies to be successful.

We cannot work in silos; instead, we need to have a comprehensive approach, including tactics such as media relations, community partnerships, unique events, influencer collaborations, digital and traditional advertising, email marketing and social media.

While some of these marketing channels can be costly, social media for small business owners is an absolute must and an inexpensive way of keeping your brand top of mind.

How businesses use social media for marketing can vary depending on the industry. The first step is determining which social media platforms make the most sense for your business. Where are your competitors? Are they on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn? If so, does it also make sense for you to have a presence on each of these, as well?

Once you know where you should be, decide who you want to reach and what your message should look like in order to accomplish this. Messaging can certainly vary on each platform, as can your target audience.

Recruiting, B2B content and company updates are best suited for LinkedIn, while beautiful visuals and brand stories are reserved for Instagram and Facebook. Twitter can serve as a great platform for timely updates and conversations with followers. To create effective social media marketing for small businesses, solidify your brand voice and target audience before creating content.

As you begin creating organic content to push out to your target audience, take advantage of the advertising tools within each platform. Facebook's Ad Manager provides businesses with an intuitive approach to advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook's Audience Network. By adding marketing dollars to your social media strategy, small businesses cast a wider net with individual posts and reach a larger audience by creating campaigns with specific objectives such as driving website visitors. With advertising spend on social media, you will be equipped with even more data and analytics than your organic posts generate in order to understand who is engaging with your content.

It's always beneficial to keep these options in mind, while understanding the value social media brings to your overall marketing strategy. Social media is a great tool for upper funnel objectives, such as raising brand awareness and interest, rather than lower funnel, conversion objectives. You want to rely on social media to increase your customer base, connect with current customers and influence them down the purchasing path.

The beauty and power of social media for small business owners is that it's affordable and efficient. It can serve as a snapshot of your brand when potential customers visit your page.

There's no better way to build relationships with your current and prospective customers than through social media marketing. It offers a quick turnaround time, granular targeting options and real-time consumer feedback and communication.

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Karen Henry is the founding partner of The PR Boutique, a Houston-based public relations firm. Kirby Levey is the company's senior accounts and digital executive.

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Houston space tech company reaches major milestone for engine technology

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A Houston company that's creating the next generation of space exploration technology is celebrating a new milestone of one of its technologies.

Intuitive Machines reports that its VR900 completed a full-duration hot-fire test, qualifying it for its IM-2 lunar mission. With the qualification, the company says its VR3500, an engine designed for larger cargo class landers, also advances in development.

The engine technology is designed, 3D-printed, and tested all at Intuitive Machines' Houston facility, which opened in the Houston Spaceport last year.

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus says in a news release that the company's goal was to lead the way in scalable deep space engines as the industry heads toward lunar missions.

“This validated engine design meets current mission demand and paves the way for our VR3500 engine for cargo delivery such as lunar terrain vehicles, human spaceflight cargo resupply, and other infrastructure delivery," Altemus continues. "We believe we’re in a prime position to build on our successful development and apply that technology toward current contracts and future lunar requirements for infrastructure delivery.”

Earlier this year, Intuitive Machines was one of one of three companies selected for a $30 million NASA contract for the initial phase of developing a rover for U.S. astronauts to traverse the moon’s surface.

Another Houston company has seen success with its engine testing. In March, Venus Aerospace announced that it's successfully ran the first long-duration engine test of their Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine in partnership with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Houston is the most stressed out city in Texas, report finds

deep breaths

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but a new report by WalletHub shows Houston residents are far more stressed out than any other city in Texas.

Houston ranked No. 18 out of 182 of the largest U.S. cities based on work, financial, family-related, and health and safety stress, according to WalletHub's "Most & Least Stressed Cities in America (2024)" report. 39 relevant metrics were considered in the report, including each city's job security, the share of households behind on bills within the last 12 months, divorce rates, crime rates, among others.

Houston was ranked the most stressed out city in Texas, but it's still far less stressed than many other U.S. cities. Cleveland, Ohio took first place as the most stressed city in America, followed by Detroit, Michigan (No. 2), Baltimore, Maryland (No. 3), Memphis, Tennessee (No. 4), and Gulfport, Mississippi (No. 5).

Out of the four main categories, Houstonians are struggling the most with work-related stress, ranking No. 13 nationally. The report found Houston has the No. 1 highest traffic congestion rate out of all cities in the report. But at least Houston drivers are solidly average, as maintained by a separate Forbes study comparing the worst drivers in America.

Houston workers can rejoice that they live in a city with a generally high level of guaranteed employment, as the city ranked No. 151 in the job security comparison. The city ranked No. 16 nationwide in the metric for the highest average weekly hours worked.

Houston fared best in the financial stress category, coming in at No. 72 nationally, showing that Houstonians aren't as worried about pinching pennies when it comes to maintaining a good quality of life. The city ranked No. 39 in the comparison of highest poverty rates.

Here's how WalletHub quantified Houston's stress levels:

  • No. 17 – Health and safety stress rank (overall)
  • No. 36 – Family stress rank (overall)
  • No. 63 – Unemployment rates
  • No. 81 – Percentage of adults in fair/poor health
  • No. 95 – Divorce rate
  • No. 96 – Percentage of adults with inadequate sleep

WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe said in the report that living in particularly arduous cities can play a big role in how stressed a person is, especially when considering uncontrollable circumstances like family problems or work-related issues.

"Cities with high crime rates, weak economies, less effective public health and congested transportation systems naturally lead to elevated stress levels for residents," Happe said.

Happe advised that residents considering a move to a place like Houston should consider how the city's quality of life will impact their mental health, not just their financial wellbeing.

Other Texas cities that ranked among the top 100 most stressed cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 20 – San Antonio
  • No. 38 – Laredo
  • No. 41 – Dallas
  • No. 47 – Corpus Christi
  • No. 61 – El Paso
  • No. 68 – Fort Worth
  • No. 71 – Brownsville
  • No. 75 – Arlington
  • No. 78 – Grand Prairie
  • No. 88 – Garland
The full report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.